ALTHOUGH Newcastle Thunder have not yet confirmed their inclusion in the 2024 League One, there is enough evidence to indicate that the North-East club in a soccer-mad city and wider Tyneside region is making every possible endeavour to get there, having launched a supporters’ membership scheme in a bid to raise the money they need to carry on in a revamped third tier.
The general feeling in the sport is that they will get there, hence the RFL’s circulation of the statement that there will be three tiers as usual and that Betfred League One will be a nine-club competition with each club playing ten games at home and ten away, this made up of 16 home-and-away league games plus four loop matches, making the 20 league games in total.
The nine clubs involved, providing Thunder make it (and it could be two more weeks before they know for sure) would be Keighley Cougars, Newcastle Thunder (both relegated from the Championship), Hunslet, OLDHAM, Workington Town, North Wales Crusaders, Rochdale Hornets, Midlands Hurricanes and Cornwall, writes ROGER HALSTEAD.
A contingency plan for an eight club league has also been devised, but more of that if it happens and, as I say, the RFL and other League One clubs. including Oldham, seem upbeat about Thunder’s eventual inclusion. Rochdale Hornets have even put season tickets on sale.
Cornwall, geographically out on a limb, will not take part in a reshaped AB Sundecks 1895 Cup, in which Oldham will be striving to become the first League One club to make it through to the final at Wembley.
English-based Championship clubs (no Toulouse) will form seven groups of three with League One clubs (no Cornwall). The top team In each group will qualify for the quarter-finals, plus the best performing second-placed team, which could well go down to points difference,
Full fixtures for the two divisions below Super League and the 1895 Cup will be published on Sunday, December 3. League One clubs will get home advantage in any fixtures against Championship opposition. Boundary Park, big cup games with Wembley the ultimate prize and a new-look Oldham side on the field; the mind boggles !
Teams involved in the group stages of the 1895 Cup will be Featherstone Rovers, Bradford Bulls, Sheffield Eagles, York Knights. Batley Bulldogs, Halifax Panthers, Widnes Vikings, Swinton Lions, Barrow Raiders, Whitehaven, Keighley Cougars, Newcastle Thunder, Dewsbury Rams, Hunslet, Doncaster, OLDHAM, Wakefield Trinity, Workington Town, North Wales Crusaders, Rochdale Hornets and Midlands Hurricanes.
Given that the first round of group games in the 1895 Cup will be played on the weekend of January 27/28 with the remaining rounds in February, alternating with the early rounds of the Betfred Challenge Cup, it looks like we can expect an early start with the pre-season fixture at Keighley on Boxing Day (please note the new kick-off time of 1pm) perhaps followed soon afterwards by other pre-season games.
Bring it on — the sooner the better!
Rochdale Hornets have followed up the signing of Matty Wilkinson by announcing the capture of Martyn Ridyard, meaning they now have SEVEN former Oldham players; namely Wilkinson, Ridyard, Gregg McNally, Jordan Andrade, Luke Nelmes, Joe Hartley and Deane Meadows.